Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium is continuing its fight against 'Italian sounding' products in the USA by bringing the issue to the European Commission. It claimed that the 100,000 tonnes of non-Italian products sold in the States under the guise of 'Parmesan' represents a prejudice against authentic Parmigiano Reggiano producers and exporters.
The Consortium believes that a recent survey conducted by the Italian Association of Geographical Indication Consortia (Aicig) could represent a turning point in its battle against misleading products, which are often packaged to look Italian. It says the survey proves that, in addition to the damage done to Italian producers, this misleading situation is also bad for US consumers.
According to Consortium Director General, Riccardo Deserti, for 66% of US consumers the term "Parmesan" is not generic - as argued by the US cheese manufacturers - but identifies a hard cheese with precise geographical origin, which for 90% of the responders is undoubtedly Italy.
As part of the research, consumers were presented with two different packs of 'Parmesan', one of which was packaged to resemble the Italian flag. When asked their impression of the two cheeses, 67% reported believing the latter to be an authentic Italian product.
The USA is the third most important country (after Germany and France) for Parmigiano Reggiano exports. In 2014, 6,597 tonnes of Parmigiano Reggiano were exported to the US, accounting for 17.8 per cent of total exports (44,000 tonnes). In the first eight months of 2015, exports to the US increased by 28.8 per cent.
The issue of 'Italian sounding' products is also being dealt within the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the EU and the USA.